Bentley’s Bathurst fighter: the Continental GT3

As the Bathurst 12 Hour’s key competitors gathered for an early morning press photo yesterday something was amiss.

Neatly placed on The Mountain’s iconic Skyline were a winged McLaren, Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari; all familiar gladiators in GT3 racing. Among them, however, was a Bentley Continental GT.

As you know on road Bentley’s 2.3-tonne luxury GT doesn’t have much in common with a Ferrari 458 or McLaren 12C. Although ever since Bentley began GT3 racing last year McLarens and Ferraris have not only been bedfellows with Continentals on circuit, but also regular victims of its speed in the Blancpain Endurance Series.

Assembled by M-Sport, Bentley’s technical partner and renowned rally specialists, in England, Bentley’s GT3 fighters are built from the tarmac up with one goal: to be cut-throat competitive.

To ensure a Continental could mix with such exotic competition, it had to drop kilos. “The road car door weighs 57kg and the racecar door weighs under seven. So there were obviously areas to save weight,” says Brian Gush, Bentley’s head of motorsport, speaking about turning the Continental GT in to a racecar.

However the Continental’s doors aren’t the only items significantly lighter than the road equivalent. Thanks to liberal technical regulations, almost all of the Bentley’s bodywork is crafted from carbon fibre. 

Significant weight is also cut from the Continental’s drivetrain. Because GT3 cars are rear-drive only Bentley tosses the car’s front axles. Its centre propshaft gets replaced with a carbon fibre unit, and the Audi-derived twin-turbo V8 lightens the nose by 23kg compared to the Bentley W12.

The process lightens a road Continental by 995kg.

The Continental’s suspension is also redesigned, featuring four-way adjustable Ohlin dampers and double wishbones all ’round, while motorsport-grade Brembos do the hauling up. The brakes are so effective, we’re told, that at last year’s Spa 24 Hour they needed only one pad change.

Aerodynamics haven’t been ignored either. The Continental GT3 features a CFD honed front splitter and rear diffuser, while its massive rear wing adds downforce to the equation.

The Continental’s 4.0-litre V8 has no problem making power, unrestricted it produces 447kW. But with such speed, it’s important the Continental GT3 can accommodate the wide range of talent seen from GT3 drivers. “We have the engine mapping to soften the engine’s response under wet conditions and various levels of traction control and ABS intervention… it allows you to get gentlemen drivers in the car and cope with the conditions,” tells Gush.

However, this Sunday Bentley won’t be taking any chances with their two-car effort, only experienced international drivers will steer the factory Continental GT3s. With some of the world’s finest pilots in GT3 cars built by Ferrari, Audi, Nismo, Mercedes-AMG and McLaren, in a race lasting 12 Hours, you wouldn’t want something amiss.

For an in-depth look at Bentley’s foray in to the world of GT3 racing, check out MOTOR’s March issue on sale now in both print and digital formats.

 

Continental GT3 Specifications

Engine

4.0-litre twin-turbo V8

Power

Approx. 600 bhp derestricted

Transmission

Xtrac six-speed sequential transaxle gearbox

Suspension

Double wishbone suspension front and rear, four-way adjustable racing dampers

Steering

Hydraulic power-assisted steering

Brakes

Ventilated iron disc brakes front and rear, Brembo six-piston front calipers, four-piston rear calipers, driver-adjustable brake bias

Safety

FIA-specification steel roll cage, Sparco six-point FIA safety harness, onboard fire extinguisher, onboard pneumatic jack system

Wheels

OZ Racing 18” x 13” rims

Tyres

310 / 710 R18

Aerodynamics

Carbon fibre front splitter, rear wing and body panels. Lightweight, aerodynamically-optimised bumpers, bonnet, sills and fenders

Length

4950 mm

Width

2030 mm

Height

1350 mm

Weight

1300 kg

Weight Distribution

52 : 48

Get your free weekly report from the world of fast cars - subscribe to the MOTOR newsletter!